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Electoral Vote Critics Claim Senate Support

The three Democratic House Members who announced plans last weekend to protest the counting of electoral votes indicated Monday that as many as three Senators may join them. If even one Senator were to join the three lawmakers in a formal written contest of the election, both chambers would be forced to hold a two-hour debate during Thursday’s joint session.

The Members — Reps. Jesse Jackson Jr. (Ill.), Stephanie Tubbs Jones (Ohio) and John Conyers (Mich.) — wouldn’t identify the Senators who were involved in a planning meeting Monday. A spokesman for Jackson indicated that additional House Members had expressed interest as well.

“We have not gotten any hard ‘yes’s or ‘no’s from Senators,” said a spokeswoman for Conyers. She added that the group didn’t expect any firm commitments until Thursday.

Jackson, Jones and Conyers are protesting what they consider serious and widespread voting irregularities on Nov. 2, 2004. Ohio’s 20 electoral votes tipped the election to President Bush.

In a statement, Jackson said a two-hour debate “would enable members of Congress to debate and highlight the problems in Ohio — which are very prevalent virtually everywhere else in the country as well — that disenfranchised innumerable Ohio voters. … Ohio did not follow its own procedures and meet its obligation to conduct a free and fair election.”

The joint statement solicits support from Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry in his capacity as Massachusetts Senator, urging him to join them in signing a letter objecting to Congress counting Ohio’s electoral votes.

In a statement, a Kerry spokeswoman said the Senator “has been very clear all along that voting irregularities must be examined, not because it would change the outcome of the election but because it’s critical to our democracy.”

The Constitution directs the President of the Senate, in the presence of both chambers, to open and count the certificates of electoral votes from each state. In 2000, then-Vice President Al Gore, in his role as outgoing President of the Senate, presided over the tally. Because the House Members who objected in 2000 were unable to find a Senator — not even Gore’s running mate, Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) — to sign a letter officially protesting the count, Gore was forced to repeatedly rule Members protesting his defeat as out of order.

Even the three Democratic lawmakers who have publicly stated their intention to protest admit that if they fail to find a Senator to sign their letter, the outcome will be much like 2000.

“It would be similar to what happened in 2000, with Members objecting and being hammered down so to speak. There will be several Members of the House offering objections,” Jackson’s spokesman Frank Watkins said.

But this year, Vice President Cheney will be in the opposite position of Gore in 2000, as he will be presiding over the tally of his own winning ticket.

As the electoral votes are counted in the House chamber, a rally led by outgoing Rep. Peter Deutsch (D-Fla.), Green Party presidential candidate David Cobb and David Lytel, founder of ReDefeatBush.com, will be held in Upper Senate Park at noon. Deutsch, who lost a primary bid for Senate in 2004, announced last week that he had joined the Committee to ReDefeat the President as it challenges the constitutionality of electoral votes in Florida, Ohio and possibly other states. The federal PAC is sponsoring two additional rallies in Boston and San Francisco this week.

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